Food trends are changing often and quickly with the advent of social media. Back in the day, people ate the same foods their entire lives, usually based on whatever they ate at home with their families when growing up. Each new generation would add a little flourish or variation of their own, yet most styles or flavor profiles were based on the regional availability and seasonality of foodstuffs. But don’t discount tradition.
The other morning when my son came home from a morning run with an epic turtle story, I began to wonder just what happened to the popularity of good old turtle soup. While running, my son spotted a giant alligator-snapping turtle in the middle of the neighborhood road. Being the very properly raised, sensitive, nature-loving human being he is, he naturally decided to help the turtle out of the traffic lanes. He first tried to convince the creature to move, using a large stick. While he was gently prodding the turtle, a truck pulled up alongside of him and the driver began yelling suggestions for getting the stubborn reptile to move on to safety. The driver hollered to my son to pick the turtle up by its tail.
Well, the turtle looked to weigh near 40 pounds and my son was a little unsure of this strategy, and what about the jaws? The driver jumped out of his truck, saying the turtle could not get its head all the way around to its tail—just keep it away from your legs. So my son picked up the turtle as instructed, and the driver held out a crowbar and—CHOMP! The alligator-turtle clamped down on the crowbar with his deadly jaws, allowing my son to throw the turtle into the back of the truck. Mission accomplished, the cheerful driver said he was taking the alligator-turtle to a happy new home in a swampy area.
Personally, I think he went home cooked the beast, and I bet it was good! It wasn’t so long ago that turtle was an extremely popular dish throughout the eastern half of the country. Yes, it was back in the good old days before political correctness, conservation and just plain old squeamishness ruled our world. The first time I tried turtle soup was in culinary school. Kinda interesting, kinda rare, really good but not something I would crave frequently. The next time I experienced this dish was in New Orleans, where turtle soups and stews continue to be a mainstay in both Creole and Cajun cuisines. Yet for most of the nation, just the thought of eating turtle would be repulsive. What a shame, because turtle does not taste like chicken, turtle tastes like turtle! But if you’d like a Creole dish reminiscent of turtle stew (albeit turtle-less) try this shrimp stew. I like to serve it pot pie-style with a biscuit crust.
Chef Bill’s Shrimp & Andouille Stew
• 2 shallots, minced
• 2 Tbsp. garlic, minced
• 4 leeks, washed, medium dice
• 3 celery stalks, medium dice
• 2 red bell peppers, medium dice
• 2 parsnips, medium dice
• 2 carrots, medium dice
• 4 chef spoons chopped tomatoes
• 1 pearl onion, peeled
• 1 oz. white wine
• 4 cups shrimp stock
• 3 thyme sprigs
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 Andouille sausage, half-inch moons
• 1/2 Tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning
• 3 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
• 2 shrimp
1. Sweat leeks, add shallots and garlic, sweat.
2. Add celery, parsnips and carrots, sweat.
3. Deglaze with wine to au sec, add remaining ingredients.
4. Simmer 15 minutes, tighten with a slurry.
5. Adjust seasonings.